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Military Services:  Marine Corps Enlisted
Photo: collage of marines standing in front of the Iwo Jima Monument, a male and a female soldiers, and the Marine Corps logo.

OVERVIEW

The United States Marine Corps has two missions; to make Marines and win battles. Comprised of smart, adaptable men and women, the Corps has served as the aggressive tip of the American military spear since its inception in 1775. Often thought of as “First to Fight”, the Marines are a smaller, more dynamic force than any other in the American arsenal. Marines operate around the world as America’s quick strike expeditionary force, ready at a moment’s notice to effectively insert elite warriors into any situation in any place that calls for it. Marines are trained to attack enemies from the air, land and sea with a fury unmatched by any other military organization in the world. And the men and women who join do so because they have always known they belong among kindred spirits.

The Marines are part of the Department of the Navy and operate in close cooperation with the U.S. naval forces at sea. The Marine Corps’ mission is unique among the armed services. Marines serve on U.S. Navy ships, protect naval bases, guard U.S. embassies and provide a quick, ever-ready strike force to protect U.S. interests anywhere in the world. All Marines can move on short notice to match up with equipment stored on floating bases on the world’s oceans. This remains an essential capability for our country.

To perform the many duties of the Marine Corps, approximately 178,000 Marines excel at everything they do. Their intense training and drive for excellence is world-renowned. The self-discipline and abilities gained in Recruit Training pour over into 300 different individual specialties in which they may become an expert. Each year, the Marine Corps recruits approximately 40,000 men and women to fill openings in its numerous career fields. Whether operating a 60-ton tank, setting up a communications outpost or maintaining an F/A-18 fighter jet, every role on the team is essential to our mission.

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ENLISTMENT

The Marine Corps is an organization built around success and the opportunity for growth and advancement. Making good Marines begins in recruit training but it continues for an entire career. As has always been the case, the backbone of the Marine Corps is its young men and women.

Marine Corps enlistment terms are for three, four, or five years depending on the type of enlistment program. During that time, a Marine will first complete recruit training, giving him or her the basic skills needed to apply the concepts of decision making, leadership, and teamwork. Young men and women enlisting in the Marine Corps must meet exacting physical, mental, and moral standards. Applicants must be between the ages of 17 and 29, American citizens or registered aliens, and in good health to ensure that they can meet the rigorous physical training demands. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), described in this guide, is used by the Marine Corps to assess each person’s vocational aptitudes and academic abilities. Some applicants for enlistment may have taken the ASVAB while still in high school. For those applicants who have not previously taken the ASVAB, a Marine recruiter can arrange for them to do so.

Applicants for enlistment can be guaranteed training and duty assignment with a wide variety of options, depending upon the level of education and the qualifications they possess. Women are eligible to enlist in all occupational fields, with the exception of combat arms (infantry, tanks, artillery, etc.).

In addition to regular enlistment, the Marine Corps offers special enlistment programs.

Delayed Entry Program

Students who wish to complete the Marine Corps enlistment process before graduating from high school or a community college may enlist in the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program (DEP). Enlistment in the DEP allows applicants to postpone their initial active-duty training for up to a full year. Enlisting in the DEP has two principal benefits: the student can finish high school or community college, and the highly desirable enlistment programs that are available in limited numbers, such as all computer specialties and many aviation specialties, can be reserved early.

Enlistment Options Program

The Enlistment Incentive Program guarantees well-qualified applicants, before they enlist, assignment to one of over 30 occupational fields. The occupational fields contain every job available in the Marine Corps, ranging from combat arms to motor transport to high technology avionics, electronics, and computer science. Some enlistment options feature cash bonuses as well as formal training programs

Musician Enlistment Option Program

Music in the Marine Corps is a tradition as old as our nation, and today’s Marine Corps bands are a proud representation of a musical heritage more than two centuries old. From inaugurations to dignitary visits and parades everywhere, the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and the 12 Marine Corps bands around the world are a show of strength, poise, and talent like no other. The program’s incentives include formal school training, accelerated promotions, and duty station choices. Talented high school and college musicians are encouraged to audition, but every would-be Marine Corps musician must first prove he or she has what it takes to be a Marine. Standard recruit training is mandatory.

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TRAINING

Marine Corps training occurs in two sections: recruit training and MOS training.

Recruit Training

Upon completing the enlistment process, all applicants enter Marine Corps Recruit Training. Over the course of 13 demanding weeks, they are literally transformed. They become extremely disciplined, and learn to depend on themselves and each other to achieve great things. Along the way, they develop new confidence in themselves and the certainty that they will be able to overcome whatever challenges they encounter in the military or civilian world. These are the people who will have the courage and the ability to defend our nation. Whether famous, successful, or simply capable, the men and women who today call themselves Marines carry our core values of honor, courage, and commitment with them throughout their lives.

Young men undergo recruit training either at Parris Island, South Carolina, or in San Diego, California. All young women attend recruit training at Parris Island. Recruit training is rigorous, demanding, and challenging. The overall goal of recruit training is to instill in the recruits the military skills, knowledge, discipline, pride, and self-confidence necessary to perform as United States Marines.

In the first several days at the recruit depot, a recruit is assigned to a platoon, receives a basic issue of uniforms and equipment, is given an additional physical, and takes further assignment classification tests. Each platoon is led by a team of three Marine drill instructors. A typical training day for recruits begins with reveille at 0500 (5:00 a.m.), continues with drill, physical training, and several classes in weapons and conduct, and ends with taps at 2100 (9:00 p.m.).

MOS Training

Upon graduation from recruit training, each Marine then reports to the School of Infantry for combat skills training. A strongly held belief in the Marine Corps is that every Marine is a rifleman. Upon graduation from the School of Infantry, Marines report to a new command for formal school training for the Military Operational Skill (MOS) he or she has been assigned. A Marine’s MOS will define his or her role within the Corps, and there are hundreds of these designations. Many MOSs are technical in nature, some include an apprenticeship program, and all result in valuable hands-on experience that will later translate to marketable skills. No matter what the MOS, a Marine is first and foremost a well-trained thinker and leader. All Marine Corps occupational specialties fall into the following main categories:

  • Combat Arms: Infantry, Tanks, Artillery
    The Marine Corps builds its warrior reputation by being better at close combat than anyone else in the world. The superior nature of Marine combat arms training is a primary reason. Combat arms includes a broad range of MOS designations that include Infantry, Tank, and Artillery specialties. Marines in these fields will be experts in hand-to-hand combat, battlefield tactics, weapons use, marksmanship and survival techniques. These Marines are counted among the most capable of warriors and are essential to our battlefield mission.
  • Aviation
    The Marine Corps aviation force is one of the largest in the world, and it is built around the need to provide advancing Marine Corps ground troops with the advantage of close air support. Since the Marine Corps is an expeditionary force, Marine Corps aircraft are also relied upon to transport Marines and their equipment. To accomplish these objectives, the Marine Corps maintains an extensive fleet of aircraft dedicated specifically to our men and women in action. Marines fly the aircraft and keep them in the air. By definition, all aviation-related Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) available to enlisted Marines are non-pilot specialties that fall into the category of enlisted aviation support. With an enlisted aviation MOS, a Marine might be involved in maintenance, electronics, crew support operations, or assigned as an air crew member.
  • Combat Service Support
    Every mission Marines undertake requires that the entire Corps take on the personality of a single, dynamic force. Anything less would not be effective. For this reason, more Marines work in combat service support (CSS) specialties than in any other field. Combat service support is the infrastructure of the Corps, and it makes the Marines an extremely effective force. Marines in a combat service support MOS may be involved with transportation, equipment and vehicle repair, logistics, nuclear/biochemical defense, engineering, and perhaps even public affairs. Every area of combat service support offers the opportunity to develop job skills valuable for a lifetime.
  • Technical Specialties: Computers, Communications, Intelligence, and Electronics
    In many mission situations, the difference between success and failure often comes in the form of a sophisticated communications network, advanced weapons technology, and an array of electronic field devices that enhance our decision making. Marines who specialize in one of these areas might be at the controls of advanced electronic firing systems or responsible for establishing satellite field communications. Some technical MOSs even offer entry into the intelligence discipline of Cryptography (decoding). Of all the areas of specialty in the Marine Corps, these are most suited for those who have a desire to learn and implement new technology.

The Marine Corps sends students to over 200 basic formal schools and to over 300 advanced formal schools. The length of formal school varies from four weeks to over a year, depending on the level of technical expertise and knowledge required to become proficient in certain job skills. For example, different military occupational specialties (MOSs) within the electrical and electronic repair occupational field require from 10 to 50 weeks to complete; different MOSs in the vehicle and machinery mechanic occupational field require from six to 18 weeks to complete.

Marines assigned to an MOS within the combat specialty occupational field conduct most of their training outdoors. Marines receiving training in highly technical MOSs receive most of their training in a classroom. The main thrust of Marine Corps training is toward “hands-on” training and practical application of newly acquired skills. As soon as possible after classroom instruction is completed, students are placed in an actual work environment to obtain practical experience and to develop confidence. After completing entry-level MOS training, most Marines are assigned to operational units of the Fleet Marine Forces to apply their skills. Marines assigned to the more technical MOSs may require more advanced training prior to their first operational duty assignment.

Job performance requirements in a number of MOSs are comparable to requirements needed for journeyman certification in civilian occupations. A Marine assigned to these MOSs may apply for status as a registered apprentice.

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ADVANCEMENT

Advancement is directly linked to an individual’s performance in an MOS and development as a Marine. Each Marine is evaluated based on job performance, experience, and ability to apply newly learned skills. While promotion criteria rely heavily upon individual job performance, Marines are also in competition with others of the same rank in the same MOS. Promotion becomes increasingly competitive as Marines advance in rank. The normal time-in-grade requirements for promotion are as follows: Private to Private First Class, six months; Private First Class to Lance Corporal, eight months; Lance Corporal to Corporal, eight months; and Corporal to Sergeant, 24 months. Promotions above Sergeant to the staff non-commissioned officer (SNCO) ranks are determined by promotion boards.

The Meritorious Promotion System is used to recognize Marines who demonstrate outstanding job performance and professional competence. Marines recommended for meritorious promotion are carefully screened for accelerated advancement. Qualified enlisted Marines can compete for and be accepted into the officer corps through several different programs. Competition is keen, and only the best qualified Marines are accepted.

The Enlisted Commissioning Program

This program provides the opportunity for enlisted Marines with two years of college to apply for assignment to the Officer Candidates School and subsequent appointment as unrestricted commissioned officers.

Enlisted Commissioning Education Program

The Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program provides to selected enlisted Marines (who have had no college experience) the opportunity to earn baccalaureate degrees by attending a college or university as full-time students. Marines in this program who obtain their baccalaureate degrees and subsequently complete officer candidate training are commissioned as Second Lieutenants.

The Warrant Officer Program

Warrant officers are technical specialists who are assigned to duties only in their area of expertise. All other officers are said to be “unrestricted” and are assigned to a wide variety of assignments during their career. The Warrant Officer Program provides for the selection and appointment to permanent warrant officer those qualified applicants who are in the grade of Sergeant or above at the time of application.

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EDUCATION PROGRAMS

The Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program provides Marines with up to $4,500 per year in financial assistance to pursue educational programs at civilian secondary and postsecondary institutions during off-duty time. Tuition assistance may only be used to fund courses at a higher academic level than the degree or diploma currently held by the Marine.

Tuition Assistance Program

The Marine Corps Tuition Assistance Program provides Marines with financial assistance to pursue educational programs at civilian secondary and postsecondary institutions during off-duty time. Tuition assistance may only be used to fund courses at a higher academic level than the degree or diploma currently held by the Marine.

Servicemembers' Opportunity Colleges

The Servicemembers’ Opportunity Colleges (SOC) is a consortium of colleges and universities that have agreed to help military personnel gain access to higher education by minimizing residency requirements, recognizing nontraditional education attainment, such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests, easing the transfer of college credit of similarly accredited institutions, and granting credit for formal military training.

College After the Corps

Marines are also eligible to participate in educational assistance programs with the Government, such as the Montgomery G.I. Bill, which can provide approximately $42,000 for future educational needs. The Marine Corps College Fund may add further monetary incentives to qualified Marines’ accounts to total more than $58,000 for education.

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